Nintendo has always operated somewhat like a toymaker, creating its games with loving care while often ignoring wider market forces. But now it literally is one. Today the company announced that its NFC-powered Amiibo figurines have moved "nearly twice" as many units in the US as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, which itself has sold an impressive 1.3 million copies. Last month Nintendo said that Amiibo sales were "approximately equal" to those of Super Smash Bros., suggesting the pace is picking up.
Amiibos are Nintendo's attempt to capitalize on the success of similar products like Activision's Skylanders franchise and Disney Infinity. Nintendo is leveraging its huge roster of video game characters from the ubiquitous to the obscure — see Yoshi and the Wii Fit Trainer above — to produce a range of figurines that can unlock extra content in games when you tap them on the Wii U GamePad's built-in NFC reader. The New Nintendo 3DS also includes NFC support, and Nintendo plans to release an adapter for older models.
Many Amiibos have proven hard to find
Each Amiibo costs $12.99, but many have proven difficult to find since going on sale in November. Nintendo has indicated that certain, less popular models will be discontinued at some point, which has jacked up the resale value; at the time of writing, you'd have to spend between $30 and $60 to buy a Wii Fit Trainer Amiibo on Amazon. Meanwhile, models for more recognizable characters like Mario and Pikachu remain easy to find at the regular price.
But for those that can actually buy them, Amiibos look to be a hit. Nintendo posted surprisingly good earnings last quarter, and the addition of a high-margin, highly collectible product can only help the company's bottom line. The Wii U might never reach a wider audience, despite a steady stream of excellent games, but Amiibos show how valuable Nintendo's core customers can be.